O.B. will ask state to redesign intersection to accomodate new Wolf Bay Bridge
By John Mullen
Mayor Tony Kennon wants a Wolf Bay Bridge and he wants it now. But he’s not is so much of a rush to move forward without making sure all parties are on board and understand the process.
Orange Beach is poised to spend a little over $3 million on survey work as well as design, engineering and permitting to kick off the process leading to construction of the long-awaited span. During the May 1 work session, the council also discussed funding for the Expect Excellence after-school program through December.
Kennon said before moving forward with the preliminary spending to start the bridge project he wants to sit down with property owners George Barber and David Lawrenz and officials with the state.
“Before we spend any of that we want a (memorandum of understanding) with this agreement together with Mr. Lawrenz, Mr. Barber and ALDOT,” Kennon said. “We’re meeting with ALDOT this week. When we get all that signed and everyone committed to the project and honoring their agreements then we’ll start moving forward with spending.
“We hope we can knock that out real quick. I’ve been in contact with everyone in discussions and they are all on board. Hopefully, we can nail that down right away.”
The ALDOT meeting will be to hopefully convince the state to redesign the intersection of Alabama 161 and Canal Road to accommodate the bridge. ALDOT has already designed the project adding a second eastbound lane to Canal Road from the Sportsplex to Al. 161.
Kennon says there’s been talk of a Wolf Bay Bridge for 25 years or more without any movement toward construction. Pressing ahead with the surveying, design and permitting will show the state Orange Beach is going to build a bridge, Kennon said.
“We’re meeting with ALDOT this week to let them know we are dead serious about making this bridge happen and can we redesign that intersection to accommodate the bridge and make it more efficient,” Kennon said. “That’s why we’re pushing this. What we’re trying to do before we get too far along is show them the bridge is an inevitability. If we’re permitted, funding is there, the will is there, we have all the Geotech surveying running parallel with the permitting process so we don’t lose a year.”
Kennon praised the current ALDOT design but said it wouldn’t work as well with the bridge dynamic.
“This is a very efficient intersection without the bridge,” he said. “With the bridge, it wouldn’t be as efficient if they designed it with the bridge.”
Led by Kennon, the city is taking an aggressive approach to getting the bridge built as quickly as possible.
“Our goal is that the day the permit is issued we will conceptually be ready to start driving piles,” he said. “We’re in the permitting phase. We’d like to see a permit issued in 10 months, nine months maybe.”
Community Development Director Kit Alexander said that’s a timeline that’s likely too aggressive.
“That’s a pretty liberal time period,” Alexander said. “It may be longer but we’re hoping. The original schedule is 12 to 18 months. Part of this Coast Guard permitting process requires that we have a number of public meetings. It’s part of the whole process.”
The largest of the two funding proposals is for $3.1 million for Burk-Kleinpeter’s work on the design of the bridge, roadway and lighting, geotechnical testing, engineering and reporting, and storm surge analysis.”
Sawgrass Consulting will be performing land surveying for alignment surveying and right-of-way mapping including hydrographic surveying across the Intracoastal Waterway and Wolf Bay at a cost of about $200,000.
Program Director Jonathan Langston said during a three-month trial run the Expect Excellence program has expanded to offer kids more than 20 fields of study or athletics.
“I don’t have the words to describe who well this is going for these kids,” Kennon said. “There’s almost too many choices.”
“This is so beyond our hopes and dreams,” Councilwoman Annette Mitchell said.
Langston said the minimum has been reached for the paid summer program so it will continue through the summer. The city will again foot the bill when school resumes in August and supply funding through Dec. 19. The city will spend about $250,000 on the program through December.
“I don’t know of a better investment we can make,” Kennon said.
City Council Also:
• Considered a bid of more than $20,000 for a drone for the police department.
• Authorized spending more than $160,000 for a track hoe for Public Works.
• Transferred land on Canal Road to the Baldwin County Board of Education for the new seventh-through-12th-grade school at the site of the former sewer plant. This transfer has been on each agenda since Dec. 12 but all the paperwork is finally ready to officially give the school board the land. A groundbreaking at the site is planned for May 11 at 10:30 a.m.
During the work session, the council:
• Discussed spending $25,000 toward the purchase of a walk-in cooler for the food bank at the Christian Service Center in Gulf Shores. Stan Moss of the center was well received and the council was receptive to giving the charity group the money.
• Discussed authorizing the mayor to sign a State-Local Disaster Assistance Agreement with the State of Alabama for FEMA for damage sustained during Hurricane Nate in October.
• Discussed authorizing the execution of a professional services agreement with Thompson Consulting Services to provide disaster debris monitoring, emergency management planning and disaster grant consulting services.
• Discussed authorizing the execution of a professional services agreement with Safe Span for engineering and bridge inspection services. ALDOT requires inspection of the Gulf Bay Road box culverts on a regular basis. Safe Span provides the inspection for the city and also represents the city at ALDOT bridge auditing meetings.
• Set public hearing dates of June 5 for planned unit development modifications Beach Village which wants to build a mobile food court on the north side of the beach road. Another was set for the same date for Cypress Village which is looking to add more lots on the western end of that project.